Boston Symphony Orchestra names Gail Samuel as president and CEO

Samuel, the first woman to hold the position, heads east after 25 years with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Incoming Boston Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Gail Samuel.
Incoming Boston Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Gail Samuel. –Aram Boghosian

Gail Samuel made history Wednesday as the first woman named as president and CEO of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the organization’s 140-year existence.

As the Julian and Eunice Cohen President and CEO of the BSO, Samuel will lead the Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and Tanglewood, according to a press release.

Samuel, who will begin her new role on June 21, currently serves as the chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and president of the Hollywood Bowl. She has three decades of experience in orchestra management.

During her tenure, Samuel transformed and expanded the reach of the Hollywood Bowl, making it a popular destination for southern Californians to experience the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the summer, according to the release. Samuel also partnered with the County of Los Angeles to make the “LA Phil” the steward of historic outdoor amphitheater The Ford, and continued to develop new strategic programming and initiatives for the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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BSO Board of Trustees chair-elect Barbara W. Hostetter, who oversaw the search process for BSO’s new leader, said in a statement that Samuel provided a “perfect blend” of business acumen and passion for symphony orchestras, as well as a commitment to building new audiences, reaching diverse communities, and expanding the BSO’s digital capacity.

“Gail is the rare leader who meets and exceeds all of these requirements,” Hostetter said in the release. “She holds an innate love and appreciation for music and how it is presented, as well as a deep understanding of the orchestral art form. As an accomplished orchestra executive, she is well-versed in the particulars of strategic management, from marketing, audience development, revenue growth and fundraising to meaningful community engagement. Her understanding of classical music, business, and most importantly, the critical intersection of the two, is impressive, and we look forward to her skilled stewardship of the BSO.”

In a statement, Samuel thanked the Los Angeles Philharmonic and said she is looking forward to leading “one of the world’s best orchestras.”

“The opportunity now to lead one of the world’s best orchestras, in a rapidly changing metropolitan area such as Boston, is an exciting new challenge and a dream project,” Samuel said. “The BSO’s assets are tremendous — from its phenomenal Orchestra, to the beloved Boston Pops, Symphony Hall and Tanglewood with the Tanglewood Music Center, and the new Tanglewood Learning Institute. I see endless opportunity and look forward to working with my colleagues and the Board of Trustees to explore new traditions while building on the strong foundation brilliantly established by Mark Volpe. I am deeply grateful to the BSO Board of Trustees for entrusting me with this honor.”

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